In what is sure to be seen as disrespectful by some and progressive by others, Saudi Arabia Prince Mohammad bin Salman had a few choice words when it came to fellow leaders and the state of the Middle East.
Speaking with Jeffery Goldberg of The Atlantic in an interview published Monday, the prince laid out what he’d like to see for the future Middle East as well as what he believes is a right of all people’s to their own land — including the people of Israel.
“I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation,” bin Salman said. “I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”
However, in keeping with the Saudi Crown Prince’s regional peace proposal, he said that the prospect of peace talks may be necessary in order to ease tensions between the two warring states.
“Israel is a big economy compared to their size and it’s a growing economy, and of course there are a lot of interests we share with Israel and if there is peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and countries like Egypt and Jordan,” he said.
Though candid about his open-minded approach toward Israel, Goldberg recognized the pressure already mounting atop the prince’s shoulders in what has been a recognizable change in attitude when it comes to Middle Eastern politics.
In making “all the right enemies,” Goldberg points out those who would likely celebrate the prince’s end are the ones closest to him, and even extend to far-reaching regions beyond Saudi territory.
“There are members of his own family, the sprawling, sclerotic, self-dealing House of Saud, who would like to see him gone — or at the very least, warehoused at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, where the 32-year-old prince recently imprisoned many of his enemies and cousins during an anti-corruption sweep of the kingdom,” Goldberg wrote.
Others both afar and throughout his own region — including members of ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hamas, and the “entire clerical and military leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran” — are also surmised as bitter enemies of the Saudi prince.
In his discussion with Goldberg, bin Salman spoke of the growing threat in the Middle East under the ruthless guidance of Islamic Republic supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying that that Iranian leader made Hitler look like a saint.
“I believe the Iranian supreme leader makes Hitler look good,” the prince said. “Hitler didn’t do what the supreme leader is trying to do. Hitler tried to conquer Europe. … The supreme leader is trying to conquer the world.”
Bin Salman said the Middle East could be divided into two warring factions: that of the “triangle of evil” (Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Sunni terror groups) and the self-described moderate states (Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman).
Though acknowledging the disruptive power struggle in his own region, the prince is on a path to conquering the world in his own way.
The son of 82-year-old King Salman is on a seemingly “endless pilgrimage to the nodes of American power” as he has plans to visit Hollywood this week and, according to those closest to the prince, is in a “genuine hurry to overturn the traditional Saudi order.”
Though visits to the U.S. are likely just a “hunting trip” for investments, Goldberg highlights the prince’s opportunity to sell the Vision 2030 plan — an elaborate strategy to modernize his kingdom and rid the country’s dependence on oil.
Goldberg said the conversation with the Saudi prince was similar to one with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, as both seem to be a “new-generation royal frustrated by do-nothing relatives, retrograde tribal politics, and fearful of both Shiite and Sunni extremism.”
However, Goldberg believes that if bin Salman were to actually be able to modernize his kingdom, the whole Middle East would become a changed place, especially in areas concerning women’s rights, which the Saudi prince began inching toward after lifting a ban that kept women from driving.
The prince has seemed eager to move forward with such rights for half the population of his kingdom, highlighting a few key factors that have played into women’s subjugation in the area — mainly that of the extremist Sunni siege of the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
“Before 1979 there were societal guardianship customs, but no guardianship laws in Saudi Arabia,” he said, referring to the siege that led to a conservative backlash and the strict male guardianship laws that followed.
“It doesn’t go back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad. In the 1960s women didn’t travel with male guardians,” he added. “But it happens now, and we want to move on it and figure out a way to treat this that doesn’t harm families and doesn’t harm the culture.”
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